Birmingham High School (Lake Balboa) soccer goalie #13 Jordan Ramirez makes the winning save during penalty kicks in the Crescenta Valley Winter Classic final game vs. Burroughs High School, at Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. Birmingham won 5-4 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie at end of regulation.(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)
LA CRESCENTA — In the championship match of the third annual Crescenta Valley Winter Classic, the Burroughs High boys’ soccer team took on a Birmingham squad that was coming off a dominating pool-play showing.
In their three previous games, the Patriots earned three shutouts while scoring 15 goals.
In the early going of the title game Saturday at Crescenta Valley High, the Indians tallied a goal against Birmingham to take a one-goal lead.
After the Patriots scored the equalizer, Burroughs was able to hold on, and despite not getting a shot on goal in the second half, the match was tied after regulation, prompting it to be decided on penalty kicks.
Birmingham goalkeeper Ricky Nino came up big, stopping one penalty kick and helping the Patriots pull out victory, 1-1 (5-4 in penalty kicks).
“I’m not nervous when it comes to penalty kicks, but I know some guys are,” Burroughs sophomore forward Manny Gonzalez said. “But sometimes when it comes down to it, it’s just getting a little lucky with your kicks. Also, I think it’s what team wants it more.”
Gonzalez earned all-tournament honors, along with teammates senior forward Esteban Alcantar and junior midfielder Carlos Rosales.
With Nino and Burroughs keeper Alfredo Tejeda squaring off, neither was able to stop the first of three penalty kicks, as Indians’ Rosales, Elias Galaviz and Gonzalez converted their attempts, as did Birmingham’s Anthony Miron, Acly Vasquez and Noel Ortega.
However, on the fourth Burroughs attempt by junior David Gerlach, he tried to blast the ball into the lower left corner, but Nino guessed correctly on the shot and batted it away.
After a make each from the two teams, Homer Nunez won it for Birmingham.
“We had to try and defend well today, but on offense we just didn’t get too many opportunities,” Burroughs coach Mike Kodama said.
“We got that first one on a counter, and we knew that’s what we would have to do to get a goal. We just never got into their box for a second one.”
With the Patriots dictating play early in the first half and keeping the ball primarily in the Indians’ third, an opportunity arose for Burroughs in the 12th minute. Gonzalez steadied the ball on the left side with two Birmingham defenders and goalkeeper Jordan Ramirez rushing toward him. Gonzalez was able to head the ball over the trio of defenders, caught up to the it and easily placed the ball into the empty net for a 1-0 lead.
However, after the goal the Indians offense went stagnant.
“I think part of that is that we were playing our fourth game in five days,” Kodama said. “They were just out there playing on adrenaline today.
“Birmingham is a great team, and you have to give that to them.”
Said Gonzalez: “We were tired, yes, but that’s not an excuse. I think we just had an off-day.”
With Burroughs clinging to a 1-0 advantage, the Patriots created their share of scoring chances in the first half. They were finally able to break through in the 35th minute on a goal by Ortega to tie the contest at 1, as the teams went into the break deadlocked.
Birmingham continued to create offensive opportunities in the second half, but could not convert any, while Burroughs struggled to maintain possession.